Something that never fails to strike me as odd is what the average person thinks it must be like to be a writer for a living. Not to get into specifics, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to an email from a reader, only to get a pleasantly freaked out response that *I* actually replied to *them*. As if they imagine me sitting on a golden throne somewhere with better things to do than to interact with actual humans who make my work as a writer possible.
Now, I don’t want to mock anyone who has responded to me in that kind of way–I love the eff out of all of you–but it is very confusing for me.
All of you who read my books make it possible for me to keep writing. I may not be able to interact as often as I like–and maybe I like to keep a mostly private life–but I do love interacting with you.
I think it would be rare to find a writer who doesn’t enjoy getting to know other people.
At the absolute least, interacting with people is good research. Thinking more broadly, social interactions are just healthy for most humans. It feeds our soul and helps us connect to that formless thing that defines what it is to be human. So…I will respond to you if you email me. It might take a minute, and it might not be a 10 page dissertation on how we’re best friends, but you’re not any less important than me.
The fact that you took time out of your day to send me a lovely email that likely made my day makes me really, really want to respond as soon as possible.
I’m not sitting on my golden throne thinking I’m better than you. I only use the golden throne to eat my meals. Otherwise, I’m busy at the computer pumping out words.
However, I really do love my life as a writer. It’s creative, I don’t really answer to hardly anyone (don’t tell the people at The Lion Fish Press I said that), it’s fulfilling, and I “meet” so many amazing people every day. When you’re just a mildly to even a wildly successful writer, you’re really in charge of your own destiny. Which is, like, the pointy part on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or something. Essentially, I get to daydream and play for a living. Not that it’s not hard work often, but it’s a lot more fun than working for The Man (even if “The Man” pays more at times).
Regardless of how much I love my life as a writer, there is a drawback. One that has been swirling around in my head lately.
I am far from being a wildly successful author, but I do all right–especially since I’ve only been doing this professionally for 2.5-ish years. However, in those 2.5-ish years, something has changed with my life as a writer.
Who do I write for now?
When I started out publishing (fully self-published in the beginning), I had no specific goals other than to get published. I had no preconceived notions about what was expected of me. I never once considered “does this work for the reader?” or “will this upset someone?” or “will I be mocked for this?”
I just wrote what was in my heart.
I wrote the stories that felt “right” to me and excited me. I wrote about characters and plots that I wanted to read about when I picked up a book. I just wrote what my soul told me to write. That sounds super Marianne Williamson, but it is what it is.
No one was watching me, so I felt free.
Now that more people have their eyes on me…I feel a little less free at times.
Every word, every sentence, every character, every plot point, holds weight. Will a reader like this, will a reader like that, am I doing this right, is this going to get me mocked?
Having readers pays the bills, but it also might send you to therapy.
Basically, anytime I sit down to write something, I’m worried that it’s the thing that will have my haters screaming: “I told you he was a hack!”
At times, I feel I have less confidence now than when I published my first writing 2.5ish years ago. I’ve become much more aware of things I was doing wrong–no matter how much people might have enjoyed it. I’ve become much more aware of things readers expect in their books–even if I never delivered those things before. I’ve become much more aware that readers are way too concerned with who I am as a person as opposed to letting my work speak for itself. And I’ve certainly become far too aware of how some readers assume certain things about a writer due to what what they write about in their books.
But the thing is…I just love to write what feeds my soul. I love to write things that people love to read. Those things don’t always coincide, but when they do – *chef’s kiss*. When what is in my heart and what is in a reader’s heart match up, it’s magical. It makes every bit of blood, sweat, and tears that go into my stories worthwhile. All those sleepless nights and coffee-fueled mornings, and missing out on fun things to work…it doesn’t matter anymore.
Someone felt seen when they read my story.
It’s just difficult to write what’s in my heart when I’m hyper aware that it might get trampled on by people. It could be constructive criticism–or it could be a gaggle of “readers” with nothing better to do than ruin a writer’s day. It could be a group of writers working behind the anonymity of the internet to undo all of a writer’s hard work (those folks exist).
That’s the hardest thing for me as a writer now.
I don’t care about fame. I don’t want to be famous. I want MY BOOKS to be well-known. I don’t care if people care about me at all. I don’t even care if I get credit, as long as I get the royalties. I didn’t become a writer to be famous. I became a writer because I couldn’t fathom a life where I didn’t write. It was my Rainer Maria Wilke moment – I woke up every day thinking about writing, so I knew that I was a writer.
I didn’t wake up every day thinking of fame.
I know that if I’m ever lucky enough to sell millions of books, I’m going to have to step out of the shadows and accept some level of fame. It is what it is. Then again, J.D. Salinger gave fame the middle finger, so maybe I can, too? Regardless of what happens, I don’t want to compromise what’s in my heart.
I have to write for me.
Hopefully, readers will stay in the bus for the journey.
Shotgun gets aux cord!
But let’s try to avoid the country music, eh?
Tremendous Love & Thanks,